The strange mistake Rishi Sunak is making

There is a very standard playbook for new party leaders who take over because their party’s popularity slumped. Very standard because, when done properly, it works. It’s to pick a handful of clear, symbolic ways to show you are different from those who came before. The deeper the unpopularity, the bigger the signs need to be.

When Sunak became Prime Minister, he had a double-dose of change to show: from the economic shambles of Liz Truss and from the deep unpopularity that Boris Johnson ended up with.

For showing he was different form Truss, it was easy: drop her Budget disaster (and join the rest of his party in pretending that the blame was all on her and her Chancellor, despite his own previous talks of tax cuts and the party’s cheering on of the Budget.)

As for Johnson? Well, the puzzle is that Sunak hasn’t taken the easy – and also ethical – option. The easy, ethical option of showing he’s different would be to crack down on sleaze in his own party. It’s a policy that would have almost everything going for it – tackles the news headlines, costs the government no money, quick to do and easy to show you’re different from what went before.

But instead Sunak is going for a Johnson tribute act. Hanging on to people caught in scandal, dithering over taking action and keeping the sleaze stories going. Rather than being different from Johnson, he’s going for being the same, with neater hair.

Very odd, and very regrettable.

UPDATE: The Prime Minister’s action in sacking Zahawi still only came many months after he was first reportedly warned of problems. And Dominic Raab and Suella Braverman are still there.

Sign up to get the latest news and analysis

"*" indicates required fields

What would you like to receive?*
If you submit this form, your data will be used in line with the privacy policy here to update you on the topic(s) selected. This may including using this data to contact you via a variety of digital channels.
This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

All comments and data you submit with them will be handled in line with the privacy and moderation policies.